Our Tax and Estate Planning practice group is nationally known for its innovation and sophistication. We are creative problem-solvers, but haven’t forgotten how to explain things in plain English. We take pride in tailoring our work specifically to the needs and unique circumstances of each client. Our philosophy is simple – we provide the level of individual service we would want as a client.
In today’s complicated world, not having an up to date estate plan can be disastrous for those left behind. At a minimum, your estate plan should generally include a Revocable Trust, a Will, and other supporting documents (such as a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Directive). We view the process of working with you to prepare these documents as an opportunity to think more broadly about any other issues that also deserve attention. The goal is for you and your family to be as fully prepared as possible. We pay attention to the details of implementing your plan, including any extra paperwork needed to address how assets are titled and death beneficiaries are designated, so that everything will be properly coordinated.
We like challenges. Other professionals often refer their complex cases to us. A few examples include large or unusual estates, blended families, or large retirement plan balances that defy traditional estate planning structures.
Estate and Trust Administration.
Death or loss of capacity can be particularly difficult for a family. We can guide you through the complex legal issues that often arise during administration of an estate or trust. Even when an estate plan is in perfect order, a number of important tasks will need attention. In some cases, critical tax planning opportunities may be available if identified early on in the administration.
Estate and Trust Litigation.
We hope for your sake that you won’t need help from us in this category – but if you do, our experience in planning, administration, and litigation makes us uniquely qualified to identify creative solutions that others might not consider.
Income Tax Efficiency; Retirement Plans and Employee Benefits.
We don’t limit our thinking to what happens after you’re gone. You may benefit from strategic advice regarding the income taxes you are paying now. We are experts on retirement plans, IRAs, and employee benefits and can help integrate the tax planning for these assets with your overall estate plan. (For example, a Roth IRA conversion is a very effective estate planning strategy for certain clients). We help executives with planning decisions relating to stock options and other forms of compensation.
Estate Tax Planning and Wealth Transfers.
Now, more than ever, high-net worth individuals need help sorting out planning ideas that are the right fit – and those that aren’t. Avoiding estate tax is a key consideration, but must be balanced with other planning priorities. Here are just a few planning techniques to be explored:
- Long-term irrevocable trust to protect assets from estate taxes, divorce, and creditors for generations (“Dynasty Trust”)
- Spousal access trust
- Special needs trust
- Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (“ILIT”)
- Family Limited Partnership (“FLP”), and other similar entities
- Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (“GRAT”)
- Intentionally Defective Grantor Trust (“IDGT”), and sale of assets to IDGT
- Qualified Personal Residence Trust (“QPRT”)
- Health Education Exclusion Trust (“HEET”)
Family Office Structures.
Our group designs family office and investment entities to manage family wealth for the long term and offers innovative design ideas that may reduce the family’s overall income taxes. We have particular expertise where real property and California property taxes are concerned. We also help families develop family mission statements and governance models.
Family Business Counseling.
Our group is very experienced with the special issues that arise when a family is operating a business. We can help with operational issues now, and can help the family with the long-term plan for the business, whether that is a hand-off to the next generation, the eventual sale of the business, or something else (for example, a transition to an employee-owned company). Here are just a few of the ways we help families with businesses:
- Planning for liquidity drain of estate tax on the business
- Clarify transfer restrictions and other rules in shareholder/operating agreements
- Review entity structure for tax efficiency and/or improved creditor protection
- Help clarify employment agreements, leases, or other arrangements to coordinate with overall plan
- Help evaluate ESOP and other retirement plan concepts
Studies show a 70% failure rate when a business passes from one generation to the next. We can help families improve the odds by preparing now and addressing issues such as:
- Clarify responsibilities and expectations of family members in the business
- Clarify current and future family governance of the business
- Assist the family in finding resources to prepare younger family members and enhance overall family communications
We represent both donors and charitable organizations. We have seen how charitable giving can bring a family together and get younger family members involved. Here are a few ways we might be able to help:
- Private foundation
- Donor advised fund
- Charitable Lead Trust (“CLT”)
- Charitable Remainder Trust (“CRT”)
- For large donations (such as for a building, faculty chair, or scholarship fund), we can negotiate an agreement that addresses naming rights and safeguards to ensure the donor’s intentions are honored
- Assist with operations or special projects for existing non-profit organizations